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Step by Step Guide to Getting your Learner's Permit and Drivers License

Step 1 - Obtaining Drivers Education Certificate of Completion

Take a Drivers Education course that will earn you a DMV-approved Certificate of Completion. This Certificate is required in order for you to obtain a DMV learner's permit. Drivesr Education and Behind-the-Wheel Drivers Training courses must be conducted as prescribed by the Department of Education. Drivers Education must consist of at least 30 hours or 2 1/2 semester periods of professional classroom instruction. 

Classroom Drivers Education is offered on Saturdays at both the MiraCosta College Oceanside Campus, and San Elijo Cardiff Campus.  Upon completion of Classroom Drivers Education you will receive a “pink” completion slip (DL387). This is one of the forms you will need to get your learner’s permit when you turn 15 ½.

Step 2 - Scheduling the DMV appointment

Check the DMV schedule online at where you can also schedule an appointment. You must have appointment to take the permit test.

What to bring and what to expect at the DMV office (Must be 15 1/2 to apply for permit)

To apply for a provisional permit, you will need the following:

Step 3 - Sign up for Behind-the-Wheel Drivers Training

This part of the training is for those students who are under 18 years of age, and have taken Classroom Drivers Education. Once a classroom or an on-line Drivers Education course has been completed and the Certificate of Completion has been received, a student is able to go to the DMV and take the written test for a learner's permit.

Once a learner's permit is obtained, a student is able to enroll in Behind-the-Wheel Drivers Training by calling 760-231-1221 or 858-883-2843 .  The cost of the program is $330 and consists of six hours of training broken into threee-two hour driving sessions. Students meet their assigned driver at the following locations: Carlsbad High School, El Camino High School, La Costa Canyon High School and Rancho Buena Vista High School, Sage Creek High School, MiraCosta College Oceanside Campus and MiraCosta College San Elijo Campus.  The hours are after school and evenings and could include weekend days.

After Behind-the-Wheel training has been completed, students receive a "yellow” completion slip (DL400D).  Students will be handed this certificate at their third and final Behind-the-Wheel Training slesson. This form must accompany a student to the DMV in order to take a driving test when they get the license.

Note: To allow you sufficient time for testing DMV will not be administering written or audio exams after 4:30pm..

Once you pass your written test, you will be issued a provisional permit. You cannot drive with your parent/guardian until you have had one Behind-the-Wheel Training slesson with a certified instructor.

A parent, guardian, spouse or adult 25 years of age or older with a valid California drivers license, must be with you when you drive. He or she must sit in a position close enough to take control of the vehicle, if necessary. It is illegal for you to drive alone at any time.

Step 4- Upon completion of the DMV learner's permit written test

After you pass the written test:

Before being eligible to take your driving test you must:

To take your driving test, you will need to:

After you pass your driving test you will be issued an interim license valid for 60 days until you receive your new photo license in the mail. Check your address before you leave DMV and tell the DMV representative if you have moved or if your address is incorrect. If you have not received your license after 60 days, call 1-800-777-0133 to check on the status. Have your interim license with you to provide information when requested.

If you fail your driving test, you must wait two weeks before you can take the test again. You have three chances to pass.

If drivers education and drivers training were taken in a state other than California, DMV will accept either a To Secondary Schools Other Than California Schools form DL 33 completed by the out-of state school, or a letter on the out-of state school’s stationery signed by a school official stating that the courses are equivalent to California’s requirements. Instructional permits issued by another state are not acceptable proof.

Step 5 - After the Driving Test

Provisional Driving Restrictions—You must be accompanied and supervised by a licensed parent, guardian or other licensed driver 25 years of age or older or a licensed or certified driving instructor when you:

New DMV Laws

Many new teen laws have been in effect since July 1, 1998.  Under the new law, teens with a learner’s permit will have to wait six months, and have 50 hours of supervised driving practice, 10 of them at night, before applying for their license.  When a student goes to DMV for their actual driver’s license, parents will sign a form verifying their teen has fulfilled this requirement. For the first six months after obtaining their actual license, the teen must be accompanied by a parent, or driver, 25 years of age or older, when transporting passengers under the age of 20.  Also for the first year, a teen cannot drive between 12 midnight and 5:00 a.m. without a licensed driver, 25 years of age or older. Exceptions would include work, school, medical and family necessities. Since implementing these new laws, statistics have shown that the number of teenage traffic deaths has declined by 20%. 

On January 1, 2004, a new law went into effect. Students must now be 15 ½ years of age to get their learner’s permit.  You can still take classroom drivers education if you are 15, but will have to wait until you turn 15 ½ before going to the DMV for your learner’s permit. 

As of January 1, 2006, a new law changes the length of time for two restrictions on your driver license, if you are under 18 years of age:

For a period of 12 months, you may not transport passengers under age 20 unless you are accompanied by a parent, guardian, instructor or licensed driver over the age of 25, and you may not drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

To determine if these restrictions apply to you, look at the date on your driver license. The date printed just to the left of your photograph is the date these restrictions begin. The new restrictions apply for 12 months following this date. For example: If the date on your license is May 7, 2005, you will have the above restrictions through May 7, 2006. Violation of either restriction can result in a fine and/or community service.

Wireless Telephones and Mobile Service Devices — Operative July 1, 2008

Amend and Add: Vehicle code §§12810.3, 23123, and 23124 (SB 33 Chapter 214)

Smoking in Vehicles With Minor Passengers

Add: Health and Safety Code Article 2.5 to chapter 4 of Part 15 of Division 104. Amend: Vehicle Code §12814.6 (SB 7 Chapter 425)

Frequently Asked Questions


Q. How long must I have my learner's permit if I am under 18?
A. You must maintain your learner's permit for a minimum of 6 months before you can get you license.

Q. How old must I be to take drivers education and behind- the-wheel classes?
A. You must be 15 years old to take drivers education classes and 15 1/2 years old to take behind- the-wheel classes.

Q. How old must I be to apply for a learner's permit?
A. Minimum age is 15 1/2 years old.

Q. What are the restrictions or provisions put on my learner's permit?
A. You must be accompanied and supervised by a licensed parent, guardian or other licensed driver 25 years of age or older or a licensed or certified driving instructor when you:

Q. When I go down to apply for my learner's permit, what do I need to take with me?

A. Be prepared and bring identification documents, as well as:

Q. What type of test does the DMV require you to take to get your learner's permit?
A. A 46 question written quiz. You need to get 39 correct. If you do not pass, you must wait one week before taking another test. You also have to take a vision test.

Q. Is it possible to obtain a learner's permit without taking a driver education class?
A. You may apply for a learner's permit at the age of 17 1/2, but you will not be issued a license until you either take a drivers education course, or turn 18 years of age.

Q. Do I have to apply for my learner's permit at the DMV closest to my house?
A. You may apply for a learner's permit at any DMV in the State of California.

Q. What's the best source of study material to prepare for the learner's permit test?
A. California Driver Handbook, and materials issued to you by your driving school.

Q. When I obtain my learner's permit, is it legal for me to begin driving right away?
A. Before driving, you must first take one driving lesson with a professional driving instructor. This lesson validates your permit.

Q. Do my parents or guardian always have to be with me when I drive?
A. You may drive with anyone who is 25 years of age or older, with a valid California license only with your parents' permission.

Q. How long is my learner's permit good for?
A. One year.

Q. Is it OK to drive with my learner's permit in another state?
A. As long as you have someone with you 25 years of age or older.

Q. With my learner's permit can I drive with my friends in the car?
A. Yes, as long as you have someone with you who is 25 years of age or older with a valid California driver's license.

Q. Do I always have to carry my learner's permit?
A. Yes, if you are driving.

Q. If I fail my learner's permit test, do I have to pay another $31?
A. No, you are able to take it three times for $31.

Q. If I lose my learner's permit, will I have to pay for a new one?
A. No, you may obtain a copy from your local DMV.

Q. Is it OK to drive with a learner's permit after dark?
A. You may drive anytime day or night as long as you have a licensed driver 25 years of age or older with you.